Bruce, My Pet Worm | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 12, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Pamela Scaiff 

Some people fall easily into the “dog people” category, some into the “cat people” one. If you are not either of those, you may be a “worm person.” Even if you love dogs and cats, you might be surprised to discover the advantages of worms for your lifestyle and your garden. Though not cuddly, worms make great pets. They don’t smell, they are clean, and they don’t have to be fed every day (or even every week). Worms don’t disturb the neighbours. They have a symbiotic relationship with insects. Worms don’t need pet sitters when you go away for a month. Even if you don’t need a new pet, the advantages of worms are worth investigating.

Friend or Slimy Bug? 

According to Pamela Scaiff, a Canadian sustainability expert, worms are both the perfect pets and partners in growing an eco-friendly garden. Pamela, who’s been living a sustainable life since 2010, recognizes the value and fun of raising worms. (She calls her worms Bruce, after the “Monty Python” philosophers sketch where all the professors are called Bruce.) Worms are a natural way to fertilize plants and aerate the soil without harming the ecosystem. Because living sustainably, in harmony with nature, is our goal, worms are the way to go. 

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What are the benefits of worms?

The principle advantage of worms is the natural fertilizer created by worm castings. Pamela calls this “the uppity word for worm poop.” This “black gold” yields nutrients that create strong and healthy plants and provides a viable alternative to harmful chemicals. At the same time, worms aerate the soil, allowing the roots of your plants to easily absorb the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. A secondary advantage, according to Pamela, is that worms are fascinating. From starting the bin, to adding the worms, to harvesting the casings, the journey is engaging and fruitful. 

Check out worms’ other benefits:

  • Increased soil nutrition from worm castings rich in nitrogen and adding four times the phosphorous that’s normally found in soil
  • Improved drainage and water storage, helping  alleviate drought and extreme heat conditions
  • Water infiltrates the soil more easily
  • Plant roots often descend lower and reach more water and nutrients
  • Improved soil structure
  • Improved productivity

How can I get started? Following simple guidelines will help you create and maintain healthy worm bins. Pamela began with a very small collection of Red Wiggler worms and worm cocoons and has had great success. She created an expert list of steps to get you started:

Location. First, decide where you are going to keep the bin – indoors or out. If you live in a cold environment, indoors is best. (Be selective about what you add to it, though, to avoid odors.)

The Container. Get a ratty old Rubbermaid tote — not the big kind, but the smaller one. Red Wigglers are surface dwellers, which means they are happiest just below the surface, not down deep. Drill air and drainage holes all over the tote, including the lid. (Pamela’s worms don’t escape because they don’t like light and also her bin is not toxic – so far). 

The Habitat Ingredients. Pamela recommends the following generally agreed upon ingredients for your bin:  

Browns: To keep your bin balanced, absorb liquid, and cool, you need bedding (carbon). Pamela uses shredded newspaper, egg cartons, coconut coir, manure, and more.

Greens: Add food scraps (they don’t have to be green). But be mindful about what you use. Brassicas like broccoli and kale cause odors. Acidic food such as onions and citrus upset the worms. 

Grit: Grit helps worms digest. Some (but not all) possibilities include sand, used coffee grounds (no longer acidic), and ground eggshells (they can’t use the shells otherwise.)

Water: Pamela advises, “Goldilocks style: too much and the bin goes anaerobic, starts to smell, and all kinds of bugs flourish. Not enough and your worm castings dry out and become useless.”

Compost: Add a handful of compost to inject helpful bacteria into your bin and get it working.

Worms: Many different varieties of worms will work. Pamela prefers red wigglers. Earthworms are an option, but they are not as productive as the red wigglers. They also escape more often.

Feeding your Worms

Pamela feeds her worms 2 – 4 times a month, and only when there is no food or almost no food left. You may need to adjust the time period as your worms grow. Be careful not to overfeed them, or it will be too much to process before it gets smelly or hot.

Here is Pamela’s formula, in her own words: 

Bedding: I rip up newspaper and egg cartons.

Greens:  Apparently, the worms love avocados and bananas. So, I chop up banana peels, gleefully much the brown bits of avocados… and freeze them. The freezing helps speed up the decomposition by breaking membranes. Only at this stage will the worms be able to eat them. I have added science experiments from the fridge.. mouldy berries, for example, but nothing cooked and no meat. 

Grit:  I mix into the food a handful of used coffee grounds and ground egg shells. I got an old coffee grinder off my local buy nothing group, so I grind shells as I collect them. 

Water:  This took me some time to figure out – how to feel the right amount of water. But the next day, I lift the lid.  If I suddenly see lots of white bugs or worms climbing the sides, I keep the lid off and let it air out. I often have a large piece of paper over the castings. 

More Worm Wisdom 

To fluff or not to fluff – there is some debate. Pamela fluffs her bin about once a month. Not only because it is fun, but also because it allows her to see if the bin is too wet or too dry and to check for uneaten food and changes in the population. 

Don’t worry about the worms overpopulating. According to Pamela, worms self-regulate. They stop reproducing if there are too many of them, if it’s too dry or too wet, or if there is not enough food. If the conditions are right, they can double their population in 60 days. 

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

You might notice other bugs in your bin. Don’t overthink this! A healthy bin is an entire ecosystem. Pamela explains, “The worms need other bugs that are also decomposers to start the process. Basically, the other bugs and bacteria are food processors for worms.” Pamela was vigilant in identifying the bugs, so as to avoid a bug problem in the house, but, in the end, they were all so happy that they got to stay!

You may wonder how to harvest the castings without losing the worms. Pamela has two suggestions: Feed only one side of the bin for a month; the worms will all migrate to that side. Alternatively, put a basket in the middle and only place the food there; the worms will hang out with the food while you gather the castings. Be careful! Castings and cocoons look remarkably alike.

Next Steps

  • Have fun setting up your bin.
  • Buy, find, or trade for worms.
  • Dump the worms on top of the habitat and watch them immediately start burrowing.  
  • Watch your worms grow.
  • Harvest the “black gold” add to your plants – indoors or outside.
  • Share extra worms with like minded gardeners.
  • Read up on how to shrink your carbon footprint
No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.


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Paper Towel Alternative! | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 5, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff (Canadian)

When was the last time you reached for a paper towel to clean up a mess?  Has COVID got you using more? How much do you pay for paper towels each week?  Each month?  Each year?  Or in a lifetime?  Do the personal finance math and then the ecological math and you may find yourself questioning whether paper towels really add quality to your life!  Did you know that Americans use more paper towels per capita daily than either of their neighbours?!

My daughters, 29 and 26 years old, never had their gorgeous baby faces wiped with paper towels, their spilled milk mopped up with paper towels, or their bedroom windows cleaned with paper towels.  In 2021, they never think to buy paper towels for their own homes.  Oh, the power of motherhood to plant sustainable living habits into future generations!  Muahahahahahaaa!!!

I think I am a bit weird, but I find the commercials for paper towels as morbidly fascinating as zombie shows.  Just as I wonder how zombies can keep walking when they have no blood circulating to keep the muscles working, I wonder how come people reach for paper towels when they can use a kitchen cloth to wipe up a mess?

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The heart of the matter. In order to wipe dirty faces, mop up messes, and sop up bacon grease, Americans use 8.5 million trees per year plus 144.5 million gallons of water per year, to manufacture the paper towels they consume, according to The University of Minnesota, the EPA, and Statista. Add this loss of natural resources to the consumption of fossil fuels used to make paper towels, wrap them in plastic, and transport them to the local store might give some folks pause for thought.  Is this use of resources worth it when there are easy, cheaper alternatives?

Back in the 1980’s, paper was already an environmental issue, so my husband and I decided to kick some paper habits out of our lives.  The easiest was paper towels.  Heck, we could save money and the environment!  A win-win, as far as we were concerned!

We had a stack of rags and made more from old towels and shirts.   

Peter, the fastidious window cleaner, felt that paper towels were still the best for not leaving streaks on windows and mirrors.  That was then. I used to clean the windows with rags and then polish them with newspapers as the ink really made the glass shine!  Ok, so who am I kidding… I probably only did this once as Peter was passionate about clean windows so this chore rarely fell to me. Now, microfiber cloths work as well as paper towels. And now that Peter and I are friends, not husband and wife, I have to clean my own darned windows!

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Sometimes, I wistfully dream of paper towels when cooking bacon, but less so now that my daughter’s boyfriend introduced me to baking bacon and letting the fat drip away!  I have a special cotton tea towel that I have been using as my bacon degreaser for years, but washing it was annoying… so baked bacon it is!  (And yes, not cooking bacon at all would be the better decision… one transition I have yet to make.)

Window cleaning and bacon degreasing used to be the only two tasks when paper towels seemed better than rags;  today,  microfibre cloths and baking are better than paper towels. 

You might wonder what to do with the paper towel alternatives.  Under my bathroom sink, I have a bowl for dirty rags, hankies, and dinner napkins which makes about a quarter laundry load each week.  They get washed, usually with towels on a hot wash.  By washing rags, I have one less kitchen bag of trash going to the curb each week.  

My rags take up less space than a two-roll pack of paper towels. 
My garbage bins are lighter. 
My purse is heavier.
My house is just as clean!

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Red wigglers are amazing pets. Children love to care for these wonderful worms. Not only do they help with composting food scraps, but they’re exceptional garden engineers. Click here to buy today.

Next Steps

  1.  Buy only paper towels made from recycled paper as at least you will save trees.  
  2. Bamboo paper towels are reusable and cost effective but they are transformed into rayon through a toxic process and are not compostable once they become rayon.  So although they are an alternative, be aware of this eco-trap.  
  3. Reduce the number of paper towels you buy. 
  4. Notice when you use paper towels.  What else is nearby that you can grab to wipe up that mess?  Becoming aware of our habits is the most important step in any transition. 
  5. Start stockpiling rags made from old clothes. 
  6. Purchase some good quality microfibre cloths and learn to take care of them. 
  7. Feel good about reducing your paper towel consumption and share that feeling with your friends and neighbours!  It is in the discussions that seeds of change are planted. 
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Sources

https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-paper/storyhttps://gallant-gold-media.myshopify.com/products/bow-bag-cork-vegan-leather

The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water as well as air pollution and waste problems. Paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/275731/us-households-amount-of-paper-towels-used-within-30-days/#:~:text=The%20data%20has%20been%20calculated,of%20paper%20towels%20in%202020.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/paper-towels-us-use-consume/577672/

EPA

http://www.mntap.umn.edu/industries/facility/paper/water/  17,000 gallons of water to make a ton of paper

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Sustainability Journey | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff; introduction and closing by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Spending the past nine months in Canada during Covid, all in on sustainability immersion, taught me a lot. In fact, I’ve completely reinvented myself in such a short period of time. The most startling aspect of my metamorphosis was understanding how easy it is to live sustainably when everyone in a given community is doing so. Stronger together. My bud, Canadian sustainability guru Pamela Scaiff, is the master of sustainability and has been my supreme guide for the past four months. I’m thrilled that she agreed to share her wisdom with all of us.

The heart of the matter. The Guardian reported back in 2015, that adopting to the circular economy lifestyle of refuse-reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle-rot (a few more buzz words will be added soon, I’m sure) will reduce carbon emissions by 71 percent by the year 2030. This seems absolutely mind-blowing after a year of intense, sustained wildfires, horrific freeze-outs in warm weather states, and endless flooding up and down the East Coast. Seeing 71 percent cut in carbon emissions in black and white a few years ago, published on a highly regarded news site, stopped me in my tracks and inspired me to jump into this new world. 

How do we all transition to a sustainable life? Pamela Scaiff shares her notes so we can follow along the same simple and easy trail of transformation.

PAMELA SCAIFF: Somewhere along the way, I transitioned from Eco Warrior to just me getting on with life and loving it. I have spent the last 35 years transitioning to sustainable living… a fancy phrase that means that my family and I have been developing habits that have reduced our contribution to pollution.  

Cleaning windows with paper towels to using rags and newspapers.

Blowing my nose with paper tissues to using handkerchiefs.

Drying my clothes in the dryer to hanging them up to dry.

Cleaning with a variety of chemicals to cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and murphy’s oil.

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details and find out how to become a sponsor.

Buying food to growing some of it.

Not noticing packaging to reducing the packaging I buy.

Buying plastic bags to using reusable bags.

Buying plastic reusable bags to buying natural fibre reusable bags.

Pulling weeds to cultivating them.

Putting out a full bin of recycling garbage to celebrating when there was nothing to put out!

Using disposable menstrual products to discovering the joy of the Diva cup… and then hitting menopause!

Buying strawberries all year long to enjoying them seasonally. 

Housing a food morgue, otherwise known as my freezer, to managing the contents so they got used.

Combing through malls to abandoning them for the consignment and second hand shops so I could get better clothes!

Buying stuff to sharing stuff.

Buying stuff to trading stuff.

Buying food wrapped in plastic to making the bread, yogourt, and cottage cheese from scratch just to avoid the garbage. 

Wrapping gifts in gift paper to presenting them in pretty scarves. 

Buying gifts of stuff to giving experiences. 

Using my dollars for products that were designed for the dump to participating in the closed loop economy.

Drinking coffee in a disposable cup to bringing my own cup to the coffee shop.

Loving a huge mug of tea to savouring a small cup of a fine brew.

Buying Easter chocolate rabbits to making them — to reduce the impact on the environment. 

Thinking about buying disposable diapers to choosing cloth instead.

Tripping over too many plastic bottles in the shower to eliminating plastic in the shower.

Hating garbage day to celebrating it.

Dealing with kids who were anxious about the future to watching kids embrace transition to sustainable living.

Composting in my garden to vermicomposting in the house.

Buying all my plants at a garden centre to sourcing them from a variety of people… and seeds.

Looking at my black thumb to wondering how it became green. 

But the biggest transition was realizing that each little thing I changed along this journey of 35 years, eventually faded into the background and just became a habit that I no longer think about. Each little habit took effort and mindfulness and commitment at first.  Then, without me noticing, there was no excitement or discipline to continue.  I just do things differently because I have been doing them for years, now. Not every transition has been sustained or successful.  However, most have!  My most important take-away is that perfection is not the goal.  Everyone transitions differently. 

My family embraced transition, but one day I was told:  Mum, if you dare transition away from toilet paper, you will have gone too far.  (Secretly this is a plan for the future, but for now, don’t tell them.)

Remember learning to ride a bike?  Do you remember how much you wanted to do it but you fell off and got lots of bruises? And how about the adrenalin of pedalling like a maniac and not falling off for the first time?  Oh, and hopping on the bike to go to school or go see friends because it was easier than walking?  At some point, riding a bike just became something you did naturally.  

Transitioning to sustainable living is like learning to ride a bike — it takes work and boy is the adrenalin rush fun!  Eventually, each little habit will feel as natural as riding a bike. 

Thank you, Pamela! That was excellent. We look forward to learning more of your secrets so we can Build Back Better and reach the targeted 71 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. 

Next Steps

  • Pick one or two easy daily habits to begin with to build your confidence in how easy sustainable living is.
  • Refusing paper towels is one of the suer quick transitions. You can save a lot of money. One roll of bamboo lasts a year.
  • Saving kitchen scraps in compost bins is also a simple way to become an overachiever and feel great about sustainable life.
  • Gifts wrapped in scarfs is another basic that saves so much money, you feel incentivized to transition quickly.
  • Be sure to pass along Pamela’s tips to your neighborhood friends. When you’re surrounded by others doing the same thing, it creates positive, forceful energy that gets you from point A to B that much faster.

Be sure to check back each Thursday for more on how to Build Back Better with sustainable living.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Bruce, My Pet Worm | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 3, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Pamela Scaiff 

Some people fall easily into the “dog people” category, some into the “cat people” one. If you are not either of those, you may be a “worm person.” Even if you love dogs and cats, you might be surprised to discover the advantages of worms for your lifestyle and your garden. Though not cuddly, worms make great pets. They don’t smell, they are clean, and they don’t have to be fed every day (or even every week). Worms don’t disturb the neighbours. They have a symbiotic relationship with insects. Worms don’t need pet sitters when you go away for a month. Even if you don’t need a new pet, the advantages of worms are worth investigating.

Friend or Slimy Bug? 

According to Pamela Scaiff, a Canadian sustainability expert, worms are both the perfect pets and partners in growing an eco-friendly garden. Pamela, who’s been living a sustainable life since 2010, recognizes the value and fun of raising worms. (She calls her worms Bruce, after the “Monty Python” philosophers sketch where all the professors are called Bruce.) Worms are a natural way to fertilize plants and aerate the soil without harming the ecosystem. Because living sustainably, in harmony with nature, is our goal, worms are the way to go. 

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

What are the benefits of worms?

The principle advantage of worms is the natural fertilizer created by worm castings. Pamela calls this “the uppity word for worm poop.” This “black gold” yields nutrients that create strong and healthy plants and provides a viable alternative to harmful chemicals. At the same time, worms aerate the soil, allowing the roots of your plants to easily absorb the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. A secondary advantage, according to Pamela, is that worms are fascinating. From starting the bin, to adding the worms, to harvesting the casings, the journey is engaging and fruitful. 

Check out worms’ other benefits:

  • Increased soil nutrition from worm castings rich in nitrogen and adding four times the phosphorous that’s normally found in soil
  • Improved drainage and water storage, helping  alleviate drought and extreme heat conditions
  • Water infiltrates the soil more easily
  • Plant roots often descend lower and reach more water and nutrients
  • Improved soil structure
  • Improved productivity

How can I get started? Following simple guidelines will help you create and maintain healthy worm bins. Pamela began with a very small collection of Red Wiggler worms and worm cocoons and has had great success. She created an expert list of steps to get you started:

Location. First, decide where you are going to keep the bin – indoors or out. If you live in a cold environment, indoors is best. (Be selective about what you add to it, though, to avoid odors.)

The Container. Get a ratty old Rubbermaid tote — not the big kind, but the smaller one. Red Wigglers are surface dwellers, which means they are happiest just below the surface, not down deep. Drill air and drainage holes all over the tote, including the lid. (Pamela’s worms don’t escape because they don’t like light and also her bin is not toxic – so far). 

The Habitat Ingredients. Pamela recommends the following generally agreed upon ingredients for your bin:  

Browns: To keep your bin balanced, absorb liquid, and cool, you need bedding (carbon). Pamela uses shredded newspaper, egg cartons, coconut coir, manure, and more.

Greens: Add food scraps (they don’t have to be green). But be mindful about what you use. Brassicas like broccoli and kale cause odors. Acidic food such as onions and citrus upset the worms. 

Grit: Grit helps worms digest. Some (but not all) possibilities include sand, used coffee grounds (no longer acidic), and ground eggshells (they can’t use the shells otherwise.)

Water: Pamela advises, “Goldilocks style: too much and the bin goes anaerobic, starts to smell, and all kinds of bugs flourish. Not enough and your worm castings dry out and become useless.”

Compost: Add a handful of compost to inject helpful bacteria into your bin and get it working.

Worms: Many different varieties of worms will work. Pamela prefers red wigglers. Earthworms are an option, but they are not as productive as the red wigglers. They also escape more often.

Feeding your Worms

Pamela feeds her worms 2 – 4 times a month, and only when there is no food or almost no food left. You may need to adjust the time period as your worms grow. Be careful not to overfeed them, or it will be too much to process before it gets smelly or hot.

Here is Pamela’s formula, in her own words: 

Bedding: I rip up newspaper and egg cartons.

Greens:  Apparently, the worms love avocados and bananas. So, I chop up banana peels, gleefully much the brown bits of avocados… and freeze them. The freezing helps speed up the decomposition by breaking membranes. Only at this stage will the worms be able to eat them. I have added science experiments from the fridge.. mouldy berries, for example, but nothing cooked and no meat. 

Grit:  I mix into the food a handful of used coffee grounds and ground egg shells. I got an old coffee grinder off my local buy nothing group, so I grind shells as I collect them. 

Water:  This took me some time to figure out – how to feel the right amount of water. But the next day, I lift the lid.  If I suddenly see lots of white bugs or worms climbing the sides, I keep the lid off and let it air out. I often have a large piece of paper over the castings. 

More Worm Wisdom 

To fluff or not to fluff – there is some debate. Pamela fluffs her bin about once a month. Not only because it is fun, but also because it allows her to see if the bin is too wet or too dry and to check for uneaten food and changes in the population. 

Don’t worry about the worms overpopulating. According to Pamela, worms self-regulate. They stop reproducing if there are too many of them, if it’s too dry or too wet, or if there is not enough food. If the conditions are right, they can double their population in 60 days. 

You might notice other bugs in your bin. Don’t overthink this! A healthy bin is an entire ecosystem. Pamela explains, “The worms need other bugs that are also decomposers to start the process. Basically, the other bugs and bacteria are food processors for worms.” Pamela was vigilant in identifying the bugs, so as to avoid a bug problem in the house, but, in the end, they were all so happy that they got to stay!

You may wonder how to harvest the castings without losing the worms. Pamela has two suggestions: Feed only one side of the bin for a month; the worms will all migrate to that side. Alternatively, put a basket in the middle and only place the food there; the worms will hang out with the food while you gather the castings. Be careful! Castings and cocoons look remarkably alike.

Next Steps

  • Have fun setting up your bin.
  • Buy, find, or trade for worms.
  • Dump the worms on top of the habitat and watch them immediately start burrowing.  
  • Watch your worms grow.
  • Harvest the “black gold” add to your plants – indoors or outside.
  • Share extra worms with like minded gardeners.
  • Read up on how to shrink your carbon footprint

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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